Friday, December 10, 2010

Why I Think The Stonecoast MFA In Popular Fiction Is Awesome

So I've been teaching at the Stonecoast MFA (a low-residency program) for about five years now. When I began there, I came in partly to teach in the Popular Fiction (Genre Fiction) part of the program. I hadn't actually written much genre fiction at the time, but I guess Pride of Carthage being historical and fairly popular got me in. I'm so glad it did.

Back then, the Popfic students were a small part of the program, sometimes residing a bit uneasily with the other concentrations (Literary Fiction, Non-Fiction and Poetry). Well, that was then. In the years I've been involved the Popfic part of the program has thrived. We've had terrific students come through writing sff, crime, historical, horror, romance, YA and urban fantasy and more. While they worked within those genres, they still did the scholarly work to earn a Master of Fine Arts, and to leave the program with the credentials to seek teaching work. Moreover, though, they left as writers with a body of work behind them and - to my mind - a clearer understanding of the market process they have to navigate to find readership.

I've taught in a lot of programs, but I've never felt more at home than I do with the students I have the pleasure of working with these days. Take this semester. I have five students that I correspond with on a monthly basis, both on their fiction and on critical work. Their projects include: an epic fantasy based in a Norse world post-Ragnarok, a horror novel in the Stephen King mode about a "haunted highway" in Montana, a century-spanning historical novel featuring an immortal character who begins his tale in ancient Rome, a Bond-like space opera with strong overtones of Richard K Morgan and Alastair Reynolds, and a short-story writer working in that peculiar slipstream part of the literary/genre borderlands that Kelly Link and Aimee Bender occupy. Am I pleased? You bet. Very little navel gazing here, but lots of fun writing. Some of it serious. Some of it not. As it should be.

Look, teaching in any program is work. I read these pieces with all my critical faculties holstered and ready to shoot, but I couldn't be happier with the material, the enthusiasm of the writers and their potential to actually make a name for themselves as publishing writers in the years to come.

And they're not just working with me. The current popfic faculty includes:

Elizabeth Hand, Nancy Holder, James Patrick Kelly, Michael Kimball, Alicia Rasley, Elizabeth Searle, Scott Wolven. Kelly Link was once a part of the program (We miss her!), and I'm very pleased to learn that Catherynne Valente will be visiting with us this winter.

A while back the program asked me to revise the write up about the Popfic concentration. HERE's a link to what I came up with. And it's all true.

Just thought I'd mention it.

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